Alison Tetrick: 2020 Changed Me, as a Person and an Athlete

By Alison Tetrick,
CTS Contributing Editor

Did you wake up on January 1st feeling like a different person? Well, I did. New Year, same me, but better. Every day striving to be better and choosing optimism toward 2021.  I took a moment to reflect on the goals I had for 2020 and what goals I might set in 2021. The bike lets me express myself. It keeps me sane. I need it and the structure it brings to my life. But 2020? Whoa. What just happened?  And having experienced that, what do I do about 2021 goals? Will events even happen?  My goals have always been around races and athletic achievement, but, what if my goals in 2021… don’t?  What if they are something more?

It is different now. I am different. And before I digress into rehashing 2020, it’s time to queue up that hopefulness for the New Year.

Why did I feel different on January 1? Maybe it was because I woke up to a crisp 20-degree morning in my truck’s rooftop tent somewhere on the Carrizo Plains. I don’t camp. Just call me a camper. After basking in the remote and frosty desert morning and indulging in a shrimp cocktail (don’t let anyone tell you camp eating can’t be gourmet), we went mountain biking. I don’t mountain bike, either. At this moment, the only bike ride I had completed in 2021 was a mountain bike ride. Just call me a mountain biker. I must have changed overnight. Or maybe I changed over the course of a year and I hadn’t noticed until then. I have probably changed again by the time you read this.

We all experienced shared challenges in 2020 and had some of our own unique burdens to shoulder. There has been heartbreak, tragedy, and unrest. It has been so heavy. Don’t you just feel the weight of it all? Heavy. As the weight pressed down, our anxiety began to heat up from that low simmer we thought we had under control to a rumbling boil that threatened to overflow. Lost fitness and racing goals from 2020, and even the uncertainty surrounding races in 2021, seem inconsequential in grand scheme of things. We’re craving some semblance of normalcy. So, now what?

Last year, I operated on the notion from CTS Coach Adam Pulford, who said, “It’s easier to be ready than to get ready.” We had fun exploring new limits and trying different workouts. I didn’t want to do any challenges like Everesting or riding 200 miles for “fun”. And that was okay. I had to tell myself it was okay. And ask Adam to remind me of that. Although they were meant to inspire, the constant barrage of challenges from our friends and colleagues was more pressure than I wanted in a time when I, and a lot of others, were already pretty overwhelmed. I felt rising pressure to do the next big feat, and I didn’t want to. The challenges didn’t bring me joy. Frankly, they brought me more anxiety and worry about what was going on in the world.

It is great to use challenges to motivate your goal-orientated self, but it’s also okay to recognize that those challenges might just be increasing your stress levels in an already chaotic world. Only you know what’s right for you, but I strive for what makes me get out the door to ride my bike to create a great day. I was searching for joy and a purposeful escape. I wanted to find peace, safety, and adventure. And then we installed the rooftop tent on the truck and put an adventure box in the back, and entered the wilderness to try this new mountain bike thing in our backyard.

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Basically, I am here to remind you that it is okay to be okay, and it is okay to not be okay. The most important part of the equation, though, is talking about it and learning to ask for help and being willing to give help when possible. At one point this last year, the bike began to make me angry. I went from having a blast exploring new physical limits and working on weaknesses with my coach, to being furious at the bike because it felt so frivolous in those heavy times. When I spoke with Adam about this, I explained my need to focus on starting my company, Saga Ventures, and entering an accelerator program. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything to my full capacity, from the bike to my career. He gave me focused structure in training and guided me to change some old time-wasting habits on the bike. I love my junk miles because, well, they’re more time on the bike, but Adam listened to what I was saying knew what to cut. He advised that less is more, and that I would know when I was ready to go again.

For many of us, the bike and the athletic spirit is what drives us each day. If bikes are therapy, coaches are therapists. Going into 2020, I was using goals at target events as milestones in my life. “When I do this event, I will feel this way and then be able to this next thing.” “After this event, these things will change.” It wasn’t healthy. I needed to go back to the basics and separate my identity from results and races and instead focus on what I could do to make a difference, both internally and externally.

As I sit here in the desert plains writing down my goals for 2021, they look different than 2020. It will be a year of focus. I acknowledge the weight of this heavy year. I appreciate life balance more than ever. I got to thinking, what if my goals don’t have to do with athletic achievement? Is that OK? Even as a professional athlete? Yes, and I will still need a coach to get me there. I mean, the bike is my medium for self-expression, after all.  And with the right outlook, it still brings more joy than ever. And that is a goal we can all strive for in 2021.

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Comments 2

  1. Reading this made me realize that I would benefit significantly from thorough reflection and journalling to unpack 2020 and plan forward. Though not a professional athlete, I recognize many similarities, that I haven’t taken time to acknowledge/express. Just doing this could be worth more than the same time invested in training. Thanks for sharing.

    1. This is great, Glenn! I am a big believer of writing down goals and lessons. I 100% agree that that the introspection and reflection can be even more beneficial than training at times! Best of luck, you’ve got this!

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